Why should we save polar bear?
The polar bear, or “Nanuuq,” as the Eskimos call it, lives on the arctic ice cap, and spends most of its time in coastal areas. Polar bears are widely dispersed in Canada, extending from the northern arctic islands south to the Hudson Bay area. They are also found in Greenland, on islands off the coast of Norway, on the northern coast of the former Soviet Union, and on the northern and northwestern coasts of Alaska in the United States. Magnificent creature of the north, the polar bear is the world's largest terrestrial carnivore. They belong to Genus, Ursus which include other species like American black bears, Asiatic black bears, brown (grizzly) bears, sun bears, and sloth bears. These species can be notable by habitat, build and size. Polar bears are also known as “Ursus maritimus which is Latin for “sea bear”, reflecting the fact that the species spends much of its life in or around water, or mostly on the water as it usually found on sea ice. Polar bears are one of nature's ultimate survivors, able to live in one of the world's toughest environments.
Polar bear population is estimated to be around 25,000. However, World Conservation Union in 2006 upgraded the polar bear from a species of Least Concern to a vulnerable species. A suspected population reduction of 30% is expected within next 45 years mainly due to global warming. Other risks to the polar bear include oil exploration, extensive fishing, pollution in the form of toxic contaminants and stresses from recreational polar bear watching. Illegal hunting is another potential risk cited by IUCN.
Ever-increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other green house gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and other sources are causing global warming. As a result, yearly ice in the Arctic is forming later in the autumn and melting earlier in the spring. WWF funded research has found that this leaves many polar bears with less time on the sea ice to hunt for food and build up their fat stores, and increased time on land where they must fast. Later formation and earlier break-up of sea ice means a longer period of fasting annually for female polar bears and their reproductive success is tightly linked to their fat stores. As their icy habitat disappears, continued existence of the polar bear is at risk.
Oil and gas exploration and development
in polar bear surroundings can affect the bears in a number of ways. Polar
bears rely partly on their fur for insulation; an oil spill in the Arctic
would most likely concentrate in the areas where polar bears and their prey are
also concentrated. Spoiling of the fur by oil reduces its insulative value
that’s why oil spills put bears at risk of dying from hypothermia. Polar bears
exposed to oil spill circumstances have been observed to lick the oil from their
fur, which consequently leads to deadly kidney failure. Polar bears like every
other bear species have strong sense of smell so maternity dens, used by
pregnant females and by females with infants, can also be disturbed by nearby
oil exploration and development. Disturbance of these sensitive sites may cause
the mother to desert her den prematurely, or abandon her litter altogether.
Polar bear is not currently endangered; but its future is far from being positive. If current warming trends continue unabated, scientists believe that polar bears may fade away within 100 years.
Polar bears are magnificent animals that serve significant part of the ecosystems in which they live. Predicament of polar bears is incredible, given that they have lost habitat to human incursions, but more importantly, they are losing their territory and habitat to the effects of global warming. Yet many people wonder why we should save polar bears, and what importance their existence has to humans or the world in general.
An ecosystem is highly dependent on all of its parts; you can’t just remove a species without it having potentially extreme consequences. Polar bears are top of the line predator in areas where they live. They are on top of food chain feeding on seal, fish and native deer populations. Several other scavenging carnivores depend at least in part on the polar bear kills. Failure to save polar bears might result in loss of species like the Arctic Fox, which is currently not endangered. The association between ringed seals and polar bears is so close that the abundance of ringed seals in some areas appears to control the concentration of polar bears, while polar bear predation in turn, regulates density and reproductive success of ringed seals.
All large predators perform vital function in harmonizing their habitat: helping to regulate the populations of other species. When an ecosystem loses its natural predators, overpopulation, sickness and death can result. Moreover, overpopulated groups can have a direct result in under populating other groups. Huge increase in population of Arctic seals would have a straight consequence on the prey of seals, and could reduce numbers of certain types of fish and crustaceans.
This may also affect humans, who might have to strive with Arctic seals for food supplies from fish. If people want a more people-centered reason to save polar bears, it surely exists in the way lack of polar bears could ultimately affect human food supply and commercial fishing industries. The idea that one species is always dependent on other specie might be the most convincing human reason to save polar bears.
For the native peoples of the Arctic, polar bears have long played an important material and cultural. Cave painting dating to 1500 years ago have been found in Chokutka, Polar bear remains have been found at hunting sites dating to 3,000 years ago, it has been suggested that Arctic peoples' skills in igloo making and seal hunting has been inspired from the polar bears themselves.
There may be many arguments existing for why we should save polar bears, there is still another question. Can we save Polar Bears? This is a matter that scientists debate because of what appears to be rapid degradation of polar bear environment in recent years due to warming temperatures. US Geological Survey has alarming forecast about our ability to save the species before its decline. If polar bears are not able to adapt to changing
climates, they might face extinction before the end of the 21st century, with about half of them vanishing by 2050.
Polar Bears have ruled the far north long before man even stepped there. It is their home there territory and humans have no right to take it away from them just to satisfy their ever increasing needs. Still it’s not too late to react as there are some things that may help slow warming trends and help to save polar bears from extinction. These include things like finding energy sources that have low emission of greenhouse gases, and not destroying polar bear territory in name of oil exploration and development. Drilling for oil or natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) might hasten annihilation of this very important species, and is looked upon by most environmentalists as a reliable way to undermine any attempts to save polar bears and other endangered or at risk species.
Public anxiety about polar bear hunting and other human activities in the Arctic, such as oil exploration, led to the First International Scientific Meeting on the Polar Bear in 1965. Attending were representatives from all five polar bear countries: Canada, Greenland (territory of Denmark), Norway, the United States, and the (former) Soviet Union. The meeting set the stage for additional international conferences and research efforts, which eventually led to an international agreement on polar bear conservation. This agreement is also known as The International Agreement on Conservation of Polar Bears and their Habitat, 1973.
This accord states that the five polar bear nations (Canada, Greenland, Norway, the United States, and the former Soviet Union) shall guard polar bear home, especially denning areas, feeding areas, and migratory routes; ban hunting of bears from aircraft and large motorized boats; conduct and coordinate management and research efforts; and exchange investigation results and data. The agreement allows the taking of polar bears for scientific purposes, for preventing serious disturbances in the management of other resources, for use by local people using customary methods and exercising traditional rights, and for protection of life and property. Each nation has voluntarily established its own regulations and conservation practices using the information gained from the global community as a whole.
Many other organizations are working to study and save polar bears. Polar bear population is under constant watch with help of radio collars but still more effort is required to make a visible difference. Today it is estimated that there are 20,000 polar bears left around the world. With continuous supportive association, these great marine mammals, and the exceptional arctic environment vital for them, can be protected for generations to come.